ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—The Buffalo Bills’ victory was well in hand when Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy—the two Pro Bowl players in the middle of this captivating drama—shared a few words on the sideline Sunday.
“We were talking about what you probably think we were talking about,” Bledsoe said with a wink. “We were both pretty happy with the win.”
Bledsoe and Milloy combined to stick it their former team, the New England Patriots, sparking the Bills to a dominating 31-0 victory in their opener.
Besides snapping Buffalo’s five-game losing streak against New England, it capped an emotional week for both players. Bledsoe, traded to Buffalo in April 2002, spent the offseason itching to erase the dreadful memories of last year’s two losses against the Patriots.
Milloy’s wait for vindication was much shorter, coming five days after the four-time Pro Bowl safety was released by the Patriots for salary cap reasons.
“It feels good,” said Milloy. “But it feels good in a positive way, not in a personal vendetta way. I could be sitting up here and throwing out names and sticking it to them, but they know.”
Milloy made a big impact as a starter, despite having three days to learn the playbook. He forced an interception, recorded a sack and got in on five tackles.
Bledsoe engineered scoring drives of 80 and 90 yards on his first two possessions and finished 17-of-28 for 230 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The game was effectively over when the Bills went up 21-0 with 10:14 left in the second quarter. The lead was built on Travis Henry’s 1-yard plunge, Dave Moore’s 7-yard reception, and defensive tackle Sam Adams’ 37-yard interception return.
The Patriots had nothing in response, looking nothing like the team that outscored Buffalo by a combined 65-24 in two games last season.
New England’s offense, in particular, never got going, managing a mere 51 yards in the first half and six first downs, two by penalty.
How bad were they? Six minutes into the second quarter, the Patriots had minus-4 yards of offense.
If Milloy’s loss was a factor, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t saying.
“We didn’t play well,” Belichick said, a pat response to the three times Milloy’s name was mentioned.
Cornerback Ty Law suggested differently.
“It was an obvious distraction,” Law said, referring to Milloy’s departure. “But no excuses. We didn’t play well. Even if Lawyer Milloy was here, we wouldn’t have done enough to win.”
Tom Brady, who replaced Bledsoe as the Patriots’ starter in 2001, had an abysmal outing. He finished 14-of-29 for 123 yards and threw four interceptions, tying a career high; he also threw four against Denver in 2001.
Brady summed up the loss: “From the first play on, it was Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo.”
Brady wasn’t alone among the blundering Patriots, who twice had drives stall after they got within the Bills 2. That included two tries from the 1 in the final 20 seconds, the game ending when Antowain Smith was stuffed for no gain.
As season openers go, it was Buffalo’s largest margin of victory since a 40-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams in 1992. It was also the second regular-season opening shutout, and first in any game for the Bills since a 26-0 win over Philadelphia in 1999.
Henry scored a second time on a 9-yard scamper in the fourth quarter and Rian Lindell added a 44-yard field goal.
Most impressive was a revamped defense, whose newcomers include Adams and linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Spikes had two interceptions and six tackles, while Milloy didn’t look like he lost a step when he helped force an interception.
With Brady attempting to hit David Patten on a deep post route, Milloy closed quickly and got his hand up to deflect the ball at the goal line. The ball bounced up and was brought down by Bills cornerback Nate Clements.
It was a strong showing from a unit that gave up an average 25 points and managed a league-low 19 turnovers last year.
“I told Drew don’t worry about today,” defensive tackle Pat Williams said.“I said don’t worry about no Patriots today, we got your back.” ^Notes: Adams’ interception return was the second of his career and first by a Bills defensive lineman since Pat Toomay in 1975. … Henry’s first touchdown marked the first time the Bills scored a first-quarter touchdown against the Patriots since a 41-17 loss on Dec. 18, 1994. … The Patriots were last shutout in a 6-0 loss to the New York Jets on Nov. 28, 1993.